I'm not a musician. I had some USSR-style formal musical education in my childhood, but, frankly, my performance of music sucked (a good enough reason not to be a musician, don't you think? I just wish more musucians would understood this). Still, this education provided me with some basic understanding of music, for which I am thankful to my parents. I think it was worth all the hours I spent sitting in front of a cheap piano trying to avoid playing. But this by no means makes my opinions educated.
Music is a very important part of my life, however dramatic it may sound. Surprisingly, my frequent rants and ramblings about it are regarded as meaningful by some. This page is for them. If you have any comments (even regarding my abuse of the English language), please don't hesitate to mail me to the address at the bottom of this page.
I grew up in the 1990s, and I mostly listen to modern and relatively modern music (1970s and later). Music experiences (and mostly suffers) a great deal of evolution since the 20th century, and refusing everything created after 1900 on the spot doesn't make one a better person. Philip Glass has a nice rant about it (search for chickenshits).
I appreciate Gershwin and Bach, among others, but it's just not the kind of music I normally listen to. Art doesn't exist in an empty space, it's tied to the cultural environment of its time, if you catch my drift, so listening to older music makes sence to me mostly from historical perspective. It's the same as with Pink Floyd: they are great, just not my style.
Above all, I want music to which I listen to be interesting, and I'm damned picky. My tastes lean towards unusual (or at least not mainstream) and experimental music, and some carefully picked samples of more conventional styles.
Today the word jazz can mean anything. Mostly it means
bebop and related styles, but it's regarded as a kind of zen
Man, if you gotta ask you'll never know. -- Louis
Armstrong). Musicians such as Trilok Gurtu and Anouar
Brahem are defined as jazz by music stores (probably because
their works are aimed at people who listen to jazz, and not at
the World Music New Age crowd).
I used to listen to bebop, but now I don't. A modern group whose style may be defined as jazz is Medeski Martin & Wood. I heard them for the first time at a live performance, and it was loud.
Edition of Contemporary Music is a record label perfectly capable of speaking for itself. They managed to create their distinctive style, Which Is Most Interesting(K), and many of their albums are a mix of jazz and European folk music with some modern influences. Intellectual music, like. Don't go there for easy-listening.
Keith Jarrett, La Scala, 1997, a solo fully improvised piano concert recorded live on 13 February 1995 in Teatro alla Scala, Milano, is one of the best albums I've ever heard. Three tracks, slightly over 78½ minutes of music with some annoying applause at the end of each track. The first two tracks (over 72½ minutes) is the concert itself: slowly morphing music, changing melodies, styles, tempos and moods on the way. Jarrett at his best, ensure to bring long attention spans. The third track, Over the Rainbow, is worth mentioning.
John Surman is a British saxophone player whose works, whether recorded or live, solo or with others, are deep, intelligent, moving and novel. Coruscating, 2000, a fine blend of classical European music and jazzy improvisations, is one of his newer creations together with Chris Laurence (double bass) and the string quartet Trans4mation. This album is somewhat brighter (should I say happier?) than the more sentimental Private City (1988), the two certainly being some of his best works.
One of the first electronic albums I heard was Squarepusher's Feed Me Weird Things, Rephlex 1996. Squarepusher comes from bebop background, and it shows in his approach to electronic music: his works are full of improvisations, have live instruments and some jazzy feel. He once said about techno, "Hit, snare, hit, snare, hit, snare, oh it's so fucking exciting". After years of listening to ECM and modern jazz Squarepusher's music served me as a gentle (if somewhat wild and mind-blowing) introduction to electronic music.
Feed Me Weird Things starts with a bass solo, which is shortly thereafter joined by insanely fast drum machines. It's hard to choose some particular tracks to write about, as every track in this album is worth mentioning. Nice bass solos all over the album, a good example in track 3, The Swifty. Good sence of humour, which one can see even before track 5, Smedleys Melody, which sounds like a parody on itself (track 4, Dimotane Co, made me somewhat histerical when I heard it for the first time). The humour effect vanishes after you hear the album several times (unless you're the sort of person that laughs at the joke when he hears it for the 50th time), of course. Interesting sound effects, notably in track 7, North Circular. This track also has deep bass line which you lose unless your speakers have reasonable bass output. Track 10, U.F.O.'s Over Leytonstone, [TO DO: listen to the album again and finish the sentence.] Overall, the best definition of this album is "consistently good". Every track is well-made, and the album sounds good as a whole. It's jazzy, though not by form, but by attitude. Nice early Squarepusher, it is. The CDDB entry for the CD includes the rant on the back of the disc box.
Autechre's Confield is deep, complex, melodic and beautiful, although it took me several weeks of occasional listening to actually hear anything worth mentioning. This album is enchanting with its soft yet snappy and well-prinounced beats, quiet sentimental melodies, well thought out morphings of tracks into subsequent ones, rich textures and complex developments in every possible plane, be it melodies, rhythms, musical structure or sounds.
Track 2, cfern, sounds like a continuation of the previous track, VI scose poise. The end of track 3, pen expers, has a nice rhythm improvisation, which is somewhat different from the rest of the album with its slow and subtle ambient-like changes. 7th reack, eidetic casein, has with quite interesting melodic developments. Its last part is a slow resolution into uviol (track 8), which is definitely my favorite track in this album, with its soft melody, which at times drifts slightly from the main line and keeps on the edge of resolution for what seems like a long time (listen to 2nd and 3rd minute, roughly, and the end of the track), backed by percussions that develop their own parallel theme. The last track (lentic catachresis) starts very nicely, but its last part (from 2:30 onward), in my opinion, is slightly too long. As a whole, Confield is a very interesting album.
After listening to Confield I bought more Autechre's albums, and they never disappointed me. Their music is unique and innovative, and they are constantly evolving, which makes each of their albums interesting to listen to (once you get used to it). LP5 is one of my favourites. Much can be said about Anti EP; it has a political message on the cover, which made me wary of buying it (after all, best art is not tainted by ideology, even ideology I agree with), but track 3, Flutter, won my heart immediately. Listen to No Repetitive Beats!
Headphone Science's number 65, n((o))type.com 2002, can be had on the web (the track names are links to MP3 files, and there's a "hidden track" below the last visible one). It starts with a two-minute ambient piece (as if such thing is possible) called none of us have to wait. Track 2, perfect substitute, has a nice repetitive melody upon which are layered beats, bleeps, backward sounds and other improvisational stuff designed to blow your mind away, but slowly. The composer wasn't in a hurry to get to the climax, and, in a sense, he never does. The acceptable replacement mix of this track done by Books On Tape (the aforementioned hidden track) is much more impatient. Which isn't bad, per se, but ambient it's not.
If I were to choose two adjectives to describe number 65 (which is exactly what I intend to do), I would pick calm and interesting. Or maybe peaceful and intensive. Or maybe... Scratch that, I'm not goind to play the two-adjectives game after all, instead I'm just going to say that I was surprised to find such a good thing for free. Highly recommended.
Once upon a time, in the dark ages long before the dawn of civilization, before CDs and laser disks, before tapes, before vinyl and shellac, before the phonograph, there was no music.
No recorded music, that is. People could still listen to live performances, but this didn't happen often, so when they had a chance to listen to music, they did, and they actually concentrated. In these eneligtened days we listen to music everywhere, which caused our mode of listening to change; we often treat music as background noise. Ambient music, envisioned by Eric Satie and John Cage and defined by Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, was created with the purpose of being such background noise.
After I've done everything I could to make you never ever touch an ambient record with a pole, I'm going to explain why I'm writing about it in the first place. Everybody defines ambient slightly differently, so I'm going to offer my (somewhat idealistic) description.
Ambient music is quiet and repetitive (which, by itself, says nothing, but read on). It which can be listened to as a background music, in which case it creates a "field of sound" and subconsciously influences the listener's mood. However, when one listens closely to ambient music, one can see slow changes and complex developments, so it's unlike Muzak which tends to insult people's intelligence.
My apologies, but I'm unable to offer a better description than this.
I would say that Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II (Warp 1994), which is regarded by many as a good example of Ambient, was the first ambient record I heard, but the boundaries of this style are not well defined. In any case, this double CD album is quite amazing. When put at low volume, it creates wonderful background for conversations, work and even sleep. But if you listen closely...
It's beautiful. It's completely insane like most Aphex Twin's works. It's complex. The tracks are totally different from each other. Some are very slow and some relatively fast. Some tracks lack beats, and some are not music in the traditional definition, but noise. Pretty noise. I don't know how to describe it, the words fail me. In short, if your taste is anything like mine, get it.
Some time after I started to listen to electronic music I became interested in hearing it live. Live concerts of electronic music are called parties, which means dance music, and there's no good dance music, is there? And most parties feature DJs instead of live performance (or at least as live as the case may be with electronic dance music), and DJs are not musicians but glorified jukebox operators, right?
Right. In full accordance to the slightly optimistic Sturgeon's Law, most music is crap. After hearing lots of trance and similar stuff, I was surprised to find out that better repetitive dance music exists, although it's hard to find.
Most people not familiar with Techno think of is as terrible dance pop from early 1990s, when in fact it's something totally different. The first time I heard Techno was the first time I understood DJing as art, but it's hard for me to say what exactly the difference between a good DJ and a stereo operator with too much smugness is (but then, what defines good music, anyway?). It's probably the music they choose, the way they build their set, their ability to make the dance floor move and blow people's minds.
Lôan is a Techno composer from Southern France. Some time ago her record Haute Tension 02 (sub-radar records/Vital prod. 1999) landed on my lap, which resulted in moving the turntable close to the workstation where I can reach it without getting up every twelve minutes to flip the record. The first three reacks (by Lôan) are hard, intelligent and danceable as hell, as well as beautifully made. I was less impressed by the fourth track by Hutch, but maybe it's the lack of perfectionism in track structure that one would expect after listening to the first three. And on the record (though not in the MP3) it starts half way through the first beat, which is really annoying.
This is all great, but most people won't listen to individual Techno traks at home. Good progressive Techno music is mostly underground, and looking for it feels like shopping for drugs -- you have to know the right people, the location of the parties is usually not known until the last hour, and there's a danger of police breakdowns (which is not as dangerous as it sounds, at least not here, the worst thing that happened to me was that a party was closed twice in the same night). But if you put $3,125.00 (plus handling) in a cigar box and bury it in your backyard, the Ancient Illuminated DJs of Bavaria will surely contact you.